Asking For Forgiveness
A querist asks, “Does God forgive people who do not ask? I have never seen where that happened. Should I forgive anyone who doesn’t ask?”
The Bible teaches that repentance has always been a prerequisite for forgiveness being granted by God (Psalm 51; Jonah 3:10; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 17:30; 2 Timothy 2:25; 1 John 1:9. Our Lord gives us the criteria for forgiving others who sin against us in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.” We can certainly see clearly that asking for forgiveness coupled with repentance is necessary for forgiveness.
In Matthew 18:15-22, the Lord gives us instructions on how to deal with a brother who trespasses against us. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but Until seventy times seven.”
The number, “seven,” was the most sacred number to the Hebrews, symbolizing God’s completion and perfection. In other words, as often as our brother repents and asks our forgiveness, we are to forgive our brother. The duty of forgiveness has no limit, save in the want of penitence in the offender. We should also remember that in no instance should a Christian harbor malice or retain resentment toward a sincere penitent offender (Colossians 3:13). We should have the loving attitude of our heavenly Father in this regard; when He forgives, He forgets (Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).